Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s stunning testimony before a parliamentary justice committee continues not only to captivate the attention of Canadians but also appears to have been a contributor to snapping whatever constraints had kept Jane Philpott from joining Wilson-Raybould and voluntarily exiting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal cabinet.
Personally, I can’t help but return to a comment attributed to Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, by the former attorney general.
According to Wilson-Raybould, Jessica Prince, the former attorney general’s own chief of staff, was assured when meeting with the prime minister’s top advisers, his then-principal secretary Gerald Butts and Telford, that if Wilson-Raybould were to acquiesce to their requests — which the former AG called “veiled threats” by various Trudeau operatives — and step back from a choice not to intervene in the decision of federal prosecutors to pursue a criminal trial against SNC-Lavalin, instead supporting a deferred prosecution agreement for the company, it would be possible to “line up all kinds of people to write op-eds” endorsing such a decision.
WATCH: Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff told ‘we would…line up all kinds of op eds’
“Line up all kinds of people to write op-eds.” Let that sink in. Again. The chief of staff to the prime minister of Canada, it is alleged, is so confident of predictably co-operative media support that by making a few calls, the collaborative op-ed wagons would be circled.
Years ago, I was asked to attend a dinner at 24 Sussex Dr. The prime minister would attend, a small group of media would be present, and we would informally share our thoughts about decisions taken by the government of the day. A focus group. Sort of.
I declined. It just didn’t feel right. I have no idea whether others who had been invited made the same decision as I did or whether the dinner ever took place.
On another occasion, an Ontario premier, very soon after being elected, invited me to meet at a winery in the Niagara region. No reason given, just: “The premier would like to meet with you over lunch.” I went. The requisite black SUVs arrived, and out stepped the newly minted provincial leader. He had already been blasted by opinion media, myself included, for breaking significant election promises.
We entered the dining room. The premier’s entourage headed off to their tables, he and I to a booth.
“So, Roy, how am I doing?” he said.
“What?” I replied.
“How am I doing?” the premier asked.
“You’re asking me how you’re doing?” I said. “That’s why I drove here instead of to the golf course? Well, premier, I would say you’re not doing well, but if you listened to my program, you would already know that.”
WATCH: Global News coverage of the SNC-Lavalin affair
Within minutes — and with salads untouched — the entourage had swept out the door. Clearly, my answer wasn’t welcomed. Clearly, the meeting was a waste of time — mine. I never did see that premier again, but we did speak on-air a few times. Ditto the prime minister, who had issued the dinner invitation.
And for what it’s worth one of these politicians was a Conservative and the other was a Liberal. My view on the merit of both situations is the same.
Would there have been a conflict of interest had I broken bread at Sussex Drive? Perhaps not. I certainly would have informed my listeners. Should I have declined to meet with an Ontario premier over lunch without knowing the agenda? Maybe. Again, I informed listeners the following morning.
READ MORE: Roy Green — Thank you, Jody Wilson-Raybould
Each of us whose job description includes broadcasting or writing personal opinion pieces about the performance of prime ministers, premiers or other elected officials of prominence must decide where the line between getting to know someone personally and reporting on a politician’s performance in office exists.
It is disturbing in the extreme that Telford is alleged to have revealed that “all kinds of people” could be rolled out to deliver op-eds in support of a senior cabinet minister who had taken a decision because she was under pressure and facing veiled threats from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.